Printer Firmware Updates – One way to minimise the risk

We run a couple of Epson printers in the office and have noticed a couple of strange occurrences in that one day they are working absolutely fine and the next day we come into the office, we come to use the printer or printers, and we get an error message “Cartridges not recognised” Really? and just how can that happen? We have never had it on both printers at the same time but periodically we get this and it can be very frustrating!

We run both of these printers on refillable cartridges with a very high-quality ink. One printer is Epson bottled ink and the other printer is a good alternate ink that has very similar properties and produces very similar results as the printer running on Epson ink. These printers were the xP-520 printers and were set up several months apart from each other but I know that I confirmed that no firmware or software updates were to be performed during installation with no checking for updates thereafter. So we could not understand how the printers were playing up one minute and then working the next.

The cartridges that were reporting as “unrecognised” in one printer, were accepted and worked perfectly in the other printer of the same model so the issue was down to the printer. By installing a set of Epson branded cartridges, the printer fired back up and strangely enough, then recognised and worked with the cartridges that it had rejected as “unrecognised” previously. This did not make any sense.

We have been hearing about these kinds of issues for 12 to 18 months and put it down to faulty chips on aftermarket or compatible cartridges, but after going through this ourselves a couple of times, not so certain. We know that printer manufacturers are indeed updating firmware and software down the telephone lines but up to now, we had thought that they were asking if people wanted the updates, but apparently not. Look at the mess that HP have got themselves into on this issue in the USA. Google HP court cases for updating printer firmware. Oh dear! The reasons given are unbelievable! Their sales of consumables such as inks are 15% down on last years sales. Have you tried reducing the price to sell more?

Armed with frustration and a sense of being picked on, along with the customer comments over time and the HP situation, I thought that maybe we should have a peek at this. In trying to work out how they could be updating the printers. We came to the opinion that it probably was via a computer and that somewhere in the computer, instructions had been placed by the printer manufacturers set-up disc to check for updates, in this case, Epson. We are fortunate that every Friday we have a computer programmer in the office writing some software for the company and when we put this to him he started to check a few things.

Firstly he agreed that something had to be put on our system, primary suspect was the computer, that would trigger a check up to the internet to check for updates. If this was done from outside our system, the firewall should normally block incoming traffic that we had not instigated. Long story short – we checked out our Task Scheduler and found a couple of instances of daily checking for software updates to Epson for the XP-520’s. We removed these a couple of months ago and have had no further messages asking to update any XP-520 printer updates and the task manager has no further tasks installed to check these updates. Result – No further issues with the printers! Yeah.

Now, what instigated writing this tale of woe was that we decided to amend our ways to become more environmentally aware and stop using a colour laserJet printer with all of the carcinogenic issues and disposal issues and instead to try out a high-production inkjet printer that HP and Epson have been banging on about. We went for a WF-5110DW to use with refillable cartridges (environmental and cost effective choice) with good inks, perhaps Epson inks. Have to say that we are completely impressed by the speed and quality of the print. This was a great choice!

When I loaded the software and drivers I was cautious on the second screen and on the final screen not to update the firmware and to ensure no future updates. On the final screen, the disc appeared to ignore what I had requested and went on to check for updates. I quickly canceled the screen and that was that. However, I got to thinking, I wonder ……. and went to check in the task scheduler and there my faith in how devilish companies can be to their own ends was confirmed. Two tasks had been placed on the list and a schedule to check for updates every day for the WF-5110DW had been created.

Of course, they have been deleted but how sneaky is that? even when you elect to opt out of updates, they still schedule updates. Not cool!

Conclusions, guys be careful, it may well be that printer firmware updates are being done without owners approval, actually in spite of an owner opting out. We can’t actually pinpoint this but we are seeing some weird things in the cartridge recognition area for no apparent reason. Also, bear in mind the entries in the task scheduler? Read up on the HP firmware update issue in the USA and make your own minds up.

Be careful when you are loading printer drivers, do not get bored and just click yes to everything that is asked, this appears to be a common thing with people loading a new printer. Doing this could restrict your choices in what consumables you purchase.

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